Chiarelli looking for Bruins to kick the hangover

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Chiarelli looking for Bruins to kick the hangover

BOSTON -- The level of outrageous rumor-mongering and crazy speculation tossed against the wall when the Bruins called off practice Tuesday -- and instead announced a conference call with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli -- was off the charts Monday night right on into Tuesday afternoon.

Its a testament to the new level of interest in the Black and Gold, and to the honking creativity of those inside, outside and around the team.

Some thought Marc Savard might be announcing his retirement on a conference call which on its face is ridiculous for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the six years and 24 million hed forfeit by calling it a career.

Others started tossing out rumors that Ray Whitney or Keith Yandle were getting dealt to the Bruins after their 3-5 start to the season, and Chiarelli was shaking it up again as he did two years ago dishing Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild just seven games into the 2009-10 season.

Not even close.

Theres a big difference between a salary cap-strapped hockey team coming off an anti-climactic second-round playoff defeat, and finding solutions for a battle-tested, playoff-hardened nucleus that now has a Stanley Cup victory on their resume. There arent that many truly valuable trade chips on the Bs roster that come without no-trade provisions, and the Bruins arent about to deal a Milan Lucic, David Krejci or Tuukka Rask to simply make a change.

Chiarelli isnt there yet, and nor should he be.

Weve got a Stanley Cup-winning team. When you want to create competition on the roster and I do believe competition is healthy its hard to create it, said Chiarelli. Weve got roster space and weve got cap space. We could do it. But its hard to meddle and tinker with a Stanley Cup team.

I know it requires luck and it requires things happening at the exact right time to win the Cup, and by no means did we have an incredible regular season last year. But I also know the makeup of this team. The main obstacle to creating competition is that you have a team thats won the Stanley Cup. I have to get over that. But Im just not at that point yet. Its a broad picture, but at some point if I dont like the way things are going then I have to do something.

The Bruins crowed about having 18 players returning from last years Stanley Cup-winning bunch, but also fully acknowledged that the Cup hangover was something theyd have to face on. Chiarelli felt that malaise was too strong a word to describe his teams difficulty focusing and finding that extra gear, but hes also self-aware to realize that his team is amidst some level of a hangover.

The offensive explosion against the Maple Leafs and the golden scoring chances enjoyed against a quality team in San Jose are signs that perhaps the Bruins are coming out of their Cup haze. But Chiarelli wants to see his team start burying a few more of the great chances theyre generating, and display the kind of emotion the Bruins regularly exude when theyre playing Bruins style hockey.

Youve heard me talk about this hangover. Whether its been self-fulfilling or not, I believe the hangover is here in some form, said Chiarelli. I havent minded our game that much: the compete level is getting a little better and our execution is getting a little better. Were still a little sloppy here and there, but Ive got to stress this is something weve got to work through. I know our guys are working their way through this funk, and its my job to keep an eye on them.

The common denominator for me is two things: one were having more offensive chances and better offensive chances at this part of the season than we did last year, and were not scoring. That to me is the foundation of getting things back. When you score early you set the tone. The second thing is getting the proper mind frame again and I dont know how to do that. It may be more of a natural process and were working on it. This is new to us and I dont want to overreact.

Chiarelli canvassed plenty of other executives, coaches and players that have won the Cup in the past for advice heading into this season, and the feedback was unanimous. Every Cup winner told Chiarelli a letdown of some kind was unavoidable, and the Bs general manger talked about minimizing the down cycle while training camp was going on.

Chiarelli said that one Cup winner estimated it was 20 games before things felt back to normal again, so the best course of action was to simply grind through it. The hope is that an emotional home-and-home tilt against the Montreal Canadiens this weekend can snap the Bs out of it.

But most around the team would settle for two consistently good back-to-back performances that end with the Bruins nailing down four points and keeping pace with Toronto and Buffalo at the top of the division.

Its focus, execution and competition to stay in and take a hit. It requires addressing a couple of fronts. I havent minded our compete level, but I think it can be better, said Chiarelli. Weve been winning one and losing one. Ive seen that. But none of the games have been out of hand. For me that tells me that were not far off from getting it back.

Were a team that plays on emotion. To play with a level of compete that gets you wins and gets you what you want, you have to reach that emotional level. Were not there yet. We all have to get back to the way that we played and then itll come around.

Facts are fact: the Bruins averaged 2.98 goals per game through 82 regular season tilts last year, and theyre averaging only 2.25 this season good for 19th in the league. Finishing off offensive plays and full 60-minute efforts are the cure for the common hockey hangover that Chiarelli and Co. are expecting out of a hockey team that everyone knows has it in them.

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

BOSTON – Having lost three games in a row for the first time under Bruce Cassidy at time of year when you can’t drop into losing streaks, Bruins fans clearly want some sense of surety when it comes to the B’s making the playoffs.

Well, they got an ironclad guarantee from Torey Krug after he was the best B’s player on the ice in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Krug has been a part of the teams that collapsed in each of the past two seasons and the puck-moving defenseman said things are going to be different this time around with nine games to go.

“I haven’t thought about it, I haven’t talked about it. It’s a different feeling this year. [A collapse] is not going to happen this year. I know we’ve got a lot of pride in this room,” said Krug, who elevated his game and scored on a nifty, Bobby Orr-esque one-man rush up the ice in the third period. He also had a team-high seven shots on net and led the B’s in ice time in the loss. “The guys that have been through it. There’s no other option except making sure we stay on course and take care and do our jobs.

“You feel like you played pretty well and things didn’t go your way. You make a big mistake and it cost you. You got to realize what’s done is done, and we have an important task on Thursday [vs. the Lightning]. We’ve got to come to the rink with no other option except winning that game. That’s the mindset we’ve got to have.”

The Black and Gold are still in a pretty good position when it comes to the playoffs, even if their lead over Toronto in the Atlantic Division is precarious right now. But it ultimately comes down to Boston summoning against Tampa Bay and the Islanders what they didn’t, or couldn’t, against Toronto and Ottawa, and making good on Krug’s defiant words following a bitter defeat. 


 

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

BOSTON – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Bruins outshot an opponent, lost and then lamented their lack of finish on a bevy of scoring plays while begrudgingly tipping their hats to a hot goaltender.

It was the scenario for many disappointing losses in the first 55 games of the season under Claude Julien, and it was a little too eerily reminiscent in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on Tuesday night. 

Certainly it’s just one game and there has been far too much good as of late to believe the Bruins are cannon-balling into a pool of previous bad habits. But giving up a goal in the second period while watching Craig Anderson make 18 second-period saves at the other end of the ice was a stark reminder of the bad old days.

“We struggled up in Ottawa getting through [the neutral zone], tonight I thought we did a better job,” said Torey Krug. “A win against that system is just getting the puck behind them and going in on the fore-check. We’ll take that every time. We did well, but we’ve got to find a way to get more goals on the scoreboard.”

Certainly there some stellar saves: A flashy glove hand on a Noel Acciari backhander from the slot and a couple of stops on Frank Vatrano in tight around the net come to mind. But there were also some light, perimeter play kind of nights from Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak where the turnovers (a combined eight giveaways between the two forwards) and loose play were coming fast and furious.

That’s the stuff that needs to improve after watching Ottawa score on three redirections with bodies camped in front of the net.

“There are some,” admitted Bruce Cassidy when asked about parallels to some darker days earlier in the season. “Some of it you have to give credit to the goaltender you’re playing. Look at his numbers, he’s been very good. I’m not going to look too far back. I think we had good looks off the rush – he [Craig Anderson] made saves. We did have our D come late, get a couple of good looks, and that’s something we’ve really worked on. We had a D join and score. That was actually a nice individual score. So, those parts of our game, I think, it just ebbs and flows over the course of the year where you run into hot goaltending and you have to stay with it.

“That’s when you have to keep the puck out of your net. [In Toronto], we were right there until two minutes to go where even though we weren’t scoring, we were in a position to get points. [Against the Senators] it was a breakdown right after we scored, so I think the focus has to be when you’re having tough luck around the net, you need to get points. And maybe these games end up 1-1, 2-2, they’re going into shootouts or overtime and you accumulate your points that way. I think that’s where the last two games have been disappointing. You know, we should have had points. It may not have been wins, but we should have been there at the end and playing 65 minutes, or whatever it took to finish it.”

The silver lining, of course, is that the Bruins didn't get bogged down in Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 trap and were able to dictate play a bit more while never actually leading in the game. But that does little good when won-loss results and points in the coffers are all that matters in the final weeks. 

Perhaps some of the offensive scale-back in the past few games has been by design after letting up seven goals to Edmonton in the Western Canada road finale, but it’s also about being tougher and more determined around the net.

Ottawa won that net-front battle on Tuesday night and subsequently won the hockey game, so it’s time for the Bruins to do that exact thing if they want better results vs. the Lightning and Islanders later this week.